The Borderplex region comprises El Paso, Texas; Juárez, Mexico; and southern New Mexico.
It is one of the largest manufacturing and distribution bases in North America. I periodically track statistics on the Borderplex’s trade and production to monitor trends. Two excellent sources that research and produce statistics are the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, which publishes a variety of reports on various industry sectors, and Customs and Border Protection, which tracks private and commercial traffic at the major port crossings in the Borderplex region.
In its El Paso Economic Indicators Report, The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank (referred to as the “Dallas Fed”) revealed that trade in the El Paso district grew by 2.9% or $121.3 billion in November. This increase was accounted for by a growth in imports of 6.8%, while exports declined by 1.9%. This mirrors national trends, as Americans continue to drive up the demand for imported products. The Ysleta Port of Entry is still the Borderplex’s major port crossing, accounting for 56.8% of trade in the region. An interesting development is that the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico surpassed El Paso’s central Bridge of the Americas to move to second place (21.7% versus 20.9%, respectively) in terms of trade in the region.
In December, the Dallas Fed reported that the monthly U.S. industrial production index, which uses a scale to measure increases and declines, rose from 101.8 in October to 102.3. This was up 5.3% compared to 2020. The same index for Mexico rose from 97.8 in September to 98.4 in October. This is 1.6% higher compared to 2020. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index was 60.8 in October, and rose to 61.1 in November. It is up 3.4% higher than 2020. According to the ISM, continued supply chain disruptions are leading to materials shortages and availability of production inputs. Combined with gridlock at seaports of entry, understaffed operations and transportation issues, these factors are affecting this particular index, which has direct relevance to the Borderplex region. The ISM does note that it is seeing slight improvements in supplies being delivered and the availability of labor.
According to the Dallas Fed, U.S. auto and light-truck production rose to 9.1 million units in November, up from 8.7 million units in October. Interestingly, auto sales fell to 12.9 million in November from 13 million in October. The Dallas Fed notes that these indicators are important for the Borderplex region, as approximately half of maquiladoras (twin plants) in Juárez are auto-related. The huge production of vehicles in Mexico has created an automotive component supplier base in El Paso and Santa Teresa that supplies firms in Mexico with items such as auto textiles, copper wire, sensors, aluminum and electronic components. I am in constant contact with suppliers that are directly feeling supply chain disruptions and are scrambling every day to cope.
Some indicators such as trade have a time lag and were not ready in the December report. However, the Dallas Fed does track southern New Mexico on a quarterly basis. In its fourth quarter report, the bank noted that in October, total trade at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry rose 3.5% above September to $30.2 billion. This was accounted for by a rise in exports of 11.5% ($13.3 billion) and a decline in imports of 2% ($16.9 billion).
CBP’s port-crossing figures show that commercial crossings at the Ysleta Port increased 7% in 2019 over 2018, and 1% in 2020. The Santa Teresa Port increased 16% in 2019 over 2018, and 5% in 2020 over 2019. In the same time frames, the Bridge of the Americas decreased 22% and 20% respectively. Final figures for December 2021 are still being processed, but preliminary figures indicate that all three ports will have an increase in commercial traffic.
The final December figures for private vehicle crossings at the Borderplex ports are still being processed, but with 2,801,747 crossings in 2021 the Bridge of the Americas is still the preferred choice for travelers. This figure was down from 4,090,774 in 2018. Ysleta follows with 1,487,322 travelers crossing in 2021, down from 3,478,650 in 2018. Santa Teresa Port of Entry is third having crossed 401,878 travelers in 2021, down from 528,921 in 2018. Needless to say, the pandemic wreaked havoc on the ability of nonessential Mexican travelers to cross at the Borderplex ports in 2020 and 2021, however, it is expected that private vehicle crossings at all three will increase in the future, particularly if the pandemic ebbs later this year.
These statistics by the Dallas Fed and CBP indicate what a major center of activity for trade, production and commerce the Borderplex region has become. And while the pandemic has affected certain sectors, the region is rebounding and should reach pre-pandemic levels shortly. In real time, this region is adding billions to each respective state and creating thousands of jobs.
Jerry Pacheco is the executive director of the International Business Accelerator, a nonprofit trade counseling program of the New Mexico Small Business Development Centers Network. He can be reached at 575-589-2200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.